ESJH grads taking fast track to college

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

RESERVE — Angelique Johnson and LaDeja Harris were still reveling in the memories of their Wednesday night graduation from East St. John High School.

They talked about the traffic to get there, the length of the ceremony and the long lines afterward to receive their actual diplomas backstage.

LaDeja’s mom was happy to show a short cell phone video of the graduates doing a second line out of the Pontchartrain Center.

Now that they are alumnae, the young ladies can turn their attention to their bright future.

Angelique and LaDeja were standout athletes on the East St. John track team, among the handful who advanced to this month’s state track meet and competed in all three relays.

LaDeja also is a sprinter with a 26.5 time in the 200 meter dash. Her best relay splits were 12.85 in the 4×100, 26.4 in the 4×200 and 1:02 in the 4×400.

Angelique competed in the 800 meters with a personal best of 2.39.0, and the triple jump with a best leap of 34 feet, 2 inches.

Because of their talents, skills and grades, they also marched out of their school with college scholarship offers in hand.

Johnson has received a scholarship offer to run track and cross country for Tuskegee University.

LaDeja will run track for Grambling State University.

They are a source of pride for East St. John coach Percy Williams — the formerly retired coach who was lured back to take over the team this year. He had retired four years ago after 36 years as a coach.

“Both of these young ladies, they didn’t know me from Adam,” Williams said. “They clenched to me. They did what I asked them to do. They’re very coachable. We went to state and did very well. After, I went to congratulate them and they just cried. I kind of cried myself because I wish I had them one more year.”

It’s on to bigger and better things for these two, though.

LaDeja always dreamed she would go to Southern University.

A dancer at East St. John, she even imagined she might try out for the dance team.

“Boy did that change,” she said.

LaDeja started running for the local amateur track team when she was about 5 years old, following in the footsteps of her mother, Danielle Johnson (no relation to Angelique).

An East St. John track standout in her own right, Danielle Johnson received a scholarship to Nicholls State University in 1992.

“My mom ran track so I wanted to keep that in the family,” LaDeja said.

She and her mom made the family angle even stronger when Danielle, who ran for Williams back in the day, was asked to be a track coach at the high school.

“She reminds me of her mom,” Williams said of LaDeja. “She knows when to turn it on. You know how they say track sense or basketball sense? She has that. I call her ‘Coach.’ She makes sure the kids do what they’re supposed to do. I’m glad I had an opportunity to coach her because I coached her mom.”

No one in Angelique Johnson’s family had ever played sports. She didn’t let that stop her, though.

Angelique had been running track for the local AAU team for years. As soon as she got to the high school, she sought out the track coach and joined the team.

When Williams came back, she sought him out too.

“She came up to me at a basketball game and introduced herself,” Williams said. “The first thing she said was, ‘I run track.’ Then she asked me, ‘When do we start?’”

Angelique went out for the local amateur team about six years ago.  She fell in love with the sport this year.

“My senior year really sparked a lot for me,” she said.

“I recognized that I really do love track. It’s not just a like anymore. Walking to the line and the adrenaline running through you, having the baton in my hand, knowing that it’s all or nothing.”